America needs prayer! The turmoil in our country may seem political, but actually a spiritual battle with monumental consequences is being waged in the heavens. From racism to face masks to abortion to marriage, our nation is divided. I have never felt the unseen war as palpably as I do now. The other night God woke me up to pray for America. I read Psalm 18 aloud and asked God to come to our nation’s defense. We need some archangels to war on our behalf.
God is sovereign. We know that in the end, God wins. We need to fight this battle with spiritual weapons. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV says, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” When we cry out hate or blame, we add to the problem. Some of our mightiest weapons are prayer and fasting. The name of Jesus and the blood of Jesus cut down the enemy’s strongholds.
I think sometimes in the western world we can be lulled into the lie that if we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Satan knows if Christians stop praying while witches and warlocks have been placing spells on the President of the United States every month, his purposes are filled instead of God’s. We don’t want to give the enemy an inch of ground. We will praise the Lord and trust in Him to overcome.
I keep thinking about Habakkuk. He asked God how long he had cry out because of the violence in the land. God responded that He would send the Chaldeans, a bitter and hasty nation to capture Judah. Habakkuk was stunned because the Chaldeans were more wicked than the people in Judah. He also pleaded with God “In wrath, remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2b NKJV). Our country has strayed from God so far that honestly, we deserve God’s wrath. Yet, I still pray for His mercy. I pray for revival and a fresh wind of the Holy Spirit to fall on our land.
This May I wrote a blog called “It’s Time to Pray in Revival.” Here’s the link for you to review if you want. I poured my heart into that blog with an examination of 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 that calls believers to repent so that the Lord heals our land. Right now, I just want to pray for America. Please pray with me.
Dear God, Please have mercy on our country. We don’t deserve it, but we need you. Please send the Holy Spirit to convict us and remind us to pray. God, we pray for more people to fast and pray on behalf of the future of our country and our families. We need you God. Please help Christians seek God’s wisdom for who to vote for on every square on their ballots. God, please protect these elections so they are free and fair from any outside influence or corruption. Lord, we pray for people who love You and seek Your face to pray now for Washington, DC so that angels may increase in strength to protect our liberties and freedoms as Americans. Get Christians out to the polling booths beyond their fear of the coronavirus, keep them healthy, and let them vote safely. Send Your winds to destroy the demonic hoards descending to cripple our country. Beat back the enemy in the heavens and let Your weapons hit the mark every time to cut down any plans of the devil to destroy America. Help us remain firm in our Christian heritage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I believe one of the greatest ways we can make a positive change in our country is to pray for our politicians. Not groan about what they said at the debates. Not complain that we don’t like what they did in the past. Not gripe about how we don’t understand how they could make a certain decision. Pray. Because prayer changes things while venting frustration just builds more hate.
If we want to have peace in the land where we live, the Bible clearly instructs us to pray for our leaders. 1 Timothy 2:1-3 says, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior” (NKJV). This passage breaks down the types of prayers for our leaders into four powerful categories.
Recently, I joined a group of a few ladies where we meet together once a week in person to pray by name for the leaders of our country at the local, state, and national level. We are careful to social distance, but praying together in person is so powerful. We have several sheets of names where we pray for the leaders to be filled with God’s wisdom and that their advisors would point them to decisions that align with the truths in God’s Word.
Maybe the idea of praying for politicians is a new concept. Some people may wonder why we would pray for people who seem set in their ways. We return to the truth that God is in control and hears the prayers of His people. If you want to start now, you can pray with me:
Dear God, I pray for the politicians in the United States. Help me to be a good citizen and to seek your wisdom for how to vote and contribute to my community. I pray for Christian candidates to not be ashamed of the gospel, but shine forth truth. I pray for their spiritual protection, because Satan wants to attack our country. Please give our leaders discernment to make wise decisions in very difficult circumstances. God, send revival that flows from the peace of your people praying together for all the leaders of our country. Thank You God for controlling the world, even when it seems to not make sense. Thank you for the freedoms we enjoy in America to worship you in spirit and in truth. Please grant us grace and mercy as a nation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
We need to pray for pastors. Even though they are seminary-trained godly men, they are still human. Pastors can fall into temptation in many areas. It could be infidelity, financial misuse, expounding unsound doctrine, or other things. We as God’s people are honored to pray for our pastors so that they can be who God has called them to be and lead their congregations well.
I’ve been blessed with great pastors over the years, but finding pastors that teach accurately may be harder as the days go by. 2 Timothy 4:2-4, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (NKJV). People often seek to justify their fleshly desires by finding others who will tell them they can do whatever they want as long as it feels good. These itchy-eared folks may take milk from the Word, but won’t dig into anything that convicts.
Fortunately, there remain some people willing to call out untruths. My friend recently shared her hurt with me after her pastor used the Lord’s name in vain in church and openly supported things that opposed the Bible. She asked him if he was concerned that what he taught did not align with truth. Instead of humbly asking forgiveness, he blasted her. It broke my heart. We prayed for her pastor on the spot, that God would convict him of his need to return to what is right. 2 Peter 2:1 says, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction” (NKJV). The pastor brought destructive heresies because he had more concern for what society deemed important than the word of God.
When we stay within the boundaries of living inside God’s law, we reap His blessings. Outside His law resides judgment. Now, I don’t judge her pastor, because but by the grace of God, there go I. Still, James 3:1 warns, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (NKJV). I wouldn’t want to be that man on Judgement Day.
Thus, prayer is so important. Personally, I am guilty of not praying for my pastor as much as I should. I have written the pastors and various church ministries at the end of my daily prayer list. I admit that sometimes, I don’t get that far down in the page. I can’t leave the fate of my church up to hoping that others will pray since I forgot. If I want to be fed the pure word of God, then I need to pray for my pastor to avoid heresy and cling to truth.
Please join me in prayer for our pastors:
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for the pastors at my church and all Christian pastors around the world. God, I pray that You would put a bloodline of Jesus hedge of protection about them and their families in every area. I pray that You would keep them grounded in Your Word so that they will rightly divide the Word of truth. Let not cultural heresies creep into their sermons to destroy the church. Give them a passion for Your name and renown. May pastors have deep times receiving revelation from You to impart to us as listeners. May they move forward on their knees as they seek wisdom for how to shepherd their flock, especially during these tough days. Please help pastors seek the praise of God more than the praise of men. God, protect their marriages, help them not have wandering eyes so Satan can have no foothold. Lord, please help pastors not be pulled into greed to steal from the church or be driven to increase the numbers of their churches. Instead, let their motivations be to grow the people in their congregation so that they resemble the Father. Give good health to our pastors so they can preach Your Word with gusto. God, for all the other ways that the enemy would seek to destroy pastors, I pray you would cut off the plans of the enemy, foil the plots, and preserve Your pastors.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I don’t have any of the titles in life that the world says you need to prove you’ve succeeded. I’m not a manager, a Mrs., a mom, or even a missionary. My career hasn’t accelerated to the top, and my relationships didn’t last. I previously was a missionary overseas, but that was long ago. What am I doing with my life? What will I leave behind when I’m gone?
God keeps reminding me of Psalm 47:4a, “He will choose our inheritance for us” (NKJV). I keep getting caught in the patterns of this world that say we should make a name for ourselves. That our titles matter. Yet, God will choose our inheritance for us. He knows how to best use our lives to build His kingdom. This lesson crops up in my life over and over again. I want to get ahead, and God wants me to stay humble.
The Sunday before Labor Day, I heard a sermon on the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25:14-30. One servant received five talents and used them to make five more talents. The second servant received two talents and make two more. The third servant only received one talent, but instead of investing it, he buried his talent in the ground. The first two servants received the master’s praise when he returned, but the third was scolded for wasting what he’d been given. His talent was taken and given to him who had five talents.
I don’t want to squander the talents that God has given me. Sometimes, I compare myself to others. Just because I am not Priscilla Shirer doesn’t mean that my writings are worthless. I started writing a Bible study on the whole armor of God in 2008, but shelved it until 2015. When I began the work, no one had published a study on the topic. However, by the time I picked it up again, Priscilla Shirer completed a strong study on the armor of God. I was so discouraged. How could I compete with her? God reminded me that I didn’t have to contend with anyone. I’m not supposed to be Priscilla Shirer. I am supposed to be the best Joanna Eccles I can be. My job is to obey God’s calling, not try to be someone else.
Isaiah 1:19 says, “If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land” (NKJV). If I am obedient to use my talents, He will nourish me with a feast. I am to do my best as unto the Lord and let Him choose what to do with my efforts. For my writing, my manuscript remains unpublished, and only God knows what He will do with it. He will share the words He has given me to the audience that needs to hear them. Maybe my blog only reaches 23 people. If those are the ones that need it, then I have honored Him. This truth applies to all areas of my life. Years from now, if no one has ever heard of Joanna Eccles, that’s fine. My role is to invest in spreading the renown of Jesus’ name. My title as obedient Daughter of the King will follow me into eternity and bring the joy of the Lord. That’s a life worth living because it lays up an eternal inheritance that cannot be taken away.
I want to go to church. Pews weren’t meant to sit empty. Every state is different in their approach to gatherings. Many places are slowly allowing people back into the church buildings. However, my little church met in an elementary school. Since schools are closed, church is closed. I need to meet in person with my church family.
I know the church is not a building. Believers join together to form the body of Christ, it’s not a certain location. Praise God that we still meet online where I hear solid Bible teaching. We even stay around afterwards to pray for each other. It’s not the same. I didn’t realize before what a blessing it was to lay hands on people in prayer.
Recently, we had a prayer gathering where we met together in person while maintaining social distancing. The group was very small and the gym was quite large with a whole wall opened for air flow. Being in the same room was other believers was electrifying. The Holy Spirit in each of us communed with the Spirit in the others and my heart soared. That gym held the splendors of heaven that night.
My heart longs to assemble with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (NKJV). I realized the reason it feels so wrong to not get together, is because it is wrong. God’s Word admonishes us to gather together to encourage each other in the faith, especially as we see the end times approach. Satan hates the power of God that moves through His people when they assemble.
May I never take for granted the ability to go to church. Psalm 122:1 “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord” (NKJV). Many churches around the world are persecuted and face imprisonment if they go to church. They meet in house churches, sometimes traveling from far reaches to be in the presence of God together. They put mattresses in front of their doors and mouth the words to praise songs to muffle the sound from the neighbors. Much of the persecuted church has experienced this reality for years. I just wasn’t expecting it in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
I pray for wisdom for churches and pastors all around this country and the whole world to navigate reopening. Sadly, many churches have gotten a bad reputation for opening and then people getting infected. I am praying we can find ways to be safe and be together. My desire is to spread the gospel and not COVID-19. My parent’s church had drive-in services. I’ve heard of other churches meeting in parks outside. There are many ways we can join together to encourage each other in Christ.
May God uphold His people and strengthen their souls as they eagerly await the day when they warm that shiny pew again. Until then, may we find ways to meet in small groups for prayer, exhortation, and studying of the Word to strengthen the bond of Christ among believers so we don’t fall away from the truth.
Have you ever seen a photo mosaic? You know, one of those pictures where they use thousands of tiny photos to build a larger image. They remind me of pointillism paintings, but with small photos instead of dots of paint. I’m amazed at how so many diverse things come together to make an entirely different picture.
I see the body of Christ as a photo mosaic. At the top is Jesus as the head of the church supported by little pictures of Christians from across the globe clustered by their various gifts. Believers to whom the Holy Spirit gave gifts of service are embedded into the hands. Those He made teachers and pastors are located at the mouth. People with the spiritual gift of mercy are centered at the heart. Combined, they make an incredible collage of beauty that showcases God’s glory. If any pictures were missing, there would be holes in the mosaic.
The Bible explains how each member of the body is important. 1 Corinthians 12:14-15 says, “For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?” (NKJV). Of course the foot is still part of the body. When I hurt my foot last fall it was hard to walk, but I never considered using my hands instead. The idea would’ve been preposterous! People were not designed to use their hands to walk around everywhere. Each body part has a different role designed to help the whole body operate.
Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (NKJV). This equipping of the saints with spiritual gifts applies to local congregations and the global body of Christ. Personally, I have the gifts of teaching and exhortation, but not the gift of healing. If I never taught because I couldn’t heal, the body of Christ would suffer. My job is to use my gifts, and not envy others. No one job is worth more than another in God’s economy. Only obedience matters. I can trust the Holy Spirit to know the right gifts for me so that I may bless the whole church.
Ephesians 4:15-16 says, “But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (NKJV).
When each part of the body of Christ obeys its calling with a joyful heart, the body blesses itself. Alternatively, if one member of the body refuses to do its job, the whole body suffers because we are all connected. The Greek word for “knit together” is synarmologeō, meaning a close-binding or joining together. Like the joints in your body attach the different parts to work as one unit, the body of Christ is connected to labor together for God’s glory as led by the head–Christ. Jesus is at the top directing the body’s thoughts and actions to align with His kingdom building purposes.
When I use the spiritual gifts that God has given me to help my local church, it also enables the global body of Christ to thrive. This knowledge spurs me to obey everything that God calls me to do, whether it looks big or small. God uses obedience as the lifeblood to grow His church. May my actions carry life to the body of Christ, both near and far, so the mosaic is complete.
The curtain rises. A hush comes over the crowd. The performance they’ve all waited for is about to start. Hundreds of eyes focus on the stage. Yet the lights stay off. The actors appear as indistinct forms in the dark. Programs rustle in people's laps as tension spreads through the room. Finally, the spotlight pierces the black to shine on the sound box. The theater attendees stir in their seats. Is this part of the play? It’s not.
The lady running the spotlight is dating the sound man. She wants everyone to see how attractive he is and refuses to light the stage where the action is happening. Her greatest concern is at the back of the theater. Patrons leave the show having seen a good-looking sound man, but not the main act.
I’d be annoyed if I went to a theater and missed the show to see the support staff. The world likes to spotlight people with money, fame, and power. If I’m not careful, I can get caught in the same trap. I can get distracted by pretty baubles that pass by and miss the main purpose of knowing and serving God. I will benefit no one if I drone on about my favorite drama on Netflix. Next month some other movie will enjoy more popularity, and my wasted time cannot be regained.
John the Baptist got it right. His life served as a spotlight to point people to Christ. He knew the story was about the Messiah, not himself. John 5:33 and 35 say, “You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth…. He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.” People flocked to hear John the Baptist speak, yet he did not keep the glory for himself. Instead, John pointed to the truth that Jesus was the Messiah. John’s ministry decreased once Christ took the His place on the scene.
My life needs to highlight things that last forever. As I honor God, the focus is not on my interests and achievements, it’s on the Lord. When I bask in the light of the Son of God, His light shines through me and points back to Himself. The person shining the spotlight is not the most important, it's the one the light surrounds. May the Lord keep me focused on things that enlighten instead of things that disappear. I pray my life will spotlight the only One worth seeing.
I love the smell of candles wafting through my home. When I use one of my White Barn candles, the entire downstairs soon fills with pleasant aromas. During COVID-19, my dream for when quarantine restrictions lifted was to smell every candle in Bath and Body Works. The morning after the stores opened, I sniffed candles through a mask to my little nose’s content.
When I took the candles home, I immediately lit one. Fruity scents of pineapple, whipped cream, and fresh orange filled my house with a tropical feeling. Just by lighting three tiny wicks I was transported from the confines of my home to a beautiful beach. When you can’t go to the beach, bring the beach to you!
Then I stared deep into the candle. I realized that for the candle to provide the lovely scents, it had to burn. Three orbs of fire flickered in a pool of wax. To release the smell, not only was the wax set on fire, it also gave away part of itself to comfort me.
I thought about the Messianic prophecy in Psalm 22:14, “I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me” (NKJV). Jesus’s heart melted as He hung on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. He emptied Himself of all of His rights and bore the fullness of God’s wrath so we could be reconciled to the Father.
Jesus’ love for us honored God and became a pleasant scent to the Lord. Ephesians 5:2 says, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (NKJV). We are called to share the same love that Jesus showed us on the cross and become living sacrifices to God. We must give of ourselves to worship God.
Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service” (NKJV). I can be selfish at times and don’t always want to surrender my dreams and demands to God. Yet, when I decrease and God increases, my life become a lovely fragrance to the Lord.
Sometimes, my life comes under fire as I am pressed by the cares of this world. When that happens, I have a choice. I can allow the flames to release a sweet-smelling aroma as an offering to the Lord or choose to make a stink about my hardships. As I sit on my couch in the middle of an island breeze, I decide that even if I melt away in the process, I want to be a fragrant incense offering before the throne of grace to fill all of heaven with the smell. May our lives be a sweet-smelling aroma to the Lord, even under fire.
This week's blog is a Bible study I wrote for Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, Collection 1, a banquet of 30 short Bible studies.
God may take us to uncharted places, but He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Several years ago, I was excited about a work opportunity to move overseas. I discovered a position I was qualified for in my favorite city in Europe. Some friends from church had already relocated there, so it meant built-in community. I’d lived abroad before and was very lonely. I dreaded repeating that.
For the application process, we ranked our job preferences. That didn’t faze me. Surely God wanted me with fellow believers. I submitted the form with a flippant statement “You can’t outdo the sovereignty of God.” All my friends and family prayed for me to get the job. I bragged about the prospect for weeks. My heart was set on that particular city.
When the assignments were issued, my heart sank. I didn’t get my top pick. I couldn’t understand. Everyone had prayed. I had never even visited the place, yet I would have to live there for two years. What happened to the sovereignty of God? I had equated God’s sovereignty with Him granting my desires. I thought more about my wishes than the Lord’s will.
James 4:13-16 (NKJV*) says,
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
My arrogant boasting backfired. I had tried to manipulate God with my prayers. I was positive I was going to such and such a city, but the Lord had other ideas. He knew how to use my short life best, though it didn’t fit into my master plan.
Submitting to God’s will instead of demanding my own way was challenging. Though I didn’t understand what God was doing, I took the job. After a while, my new city became home. I attended an international church and found a Bible study where I made close friends. I sang karaoke at a wedding shower and ran relay races in my living room for a baby shower. We did life together. After I left, a friend invited me back to be in her wedding.
More importantly, I wound up a mere four-hour trip away from my youngest sister. God had called my sister to missions overseas. She did not receive her first choice either, but God knew what He was doing. We celebrated holidays together and often met to travel. Our relationship deepened, and we supported each other.
God even used my home as a safe haven. Various missionaries stayed with me while they were transitioning back from the field or when they needed respite. My brother also lived with me for six weeks during a stressful period.
Proverbs 16:9 says, A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. I love to plan and try to organize everything into neat little boxes of two-year increments. However, I can’t even control what will happen tomorrow. Fortunately, God sees the bigger picture. He does exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). When I let go of my death grip of control and surrender to Him, He surpasses what my finite mind could even begin to dream. Now I say “Lord willing” and mean it. I can trust God even when I don’t understand Him. I hold my demands more loosely, which frees me to receive His unimaginable good gifts.
Have you ever made plans you were certain would happen, yet they never materialized? It might not have been a move, but perhaps it was a job or a relationship. Instead of being stumped, remember, You ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (James 4:15). It’s God’s will, not ours, that matters.
When God redirects your paths with sharp turns into unknown territories, instead of cowering in fear, start rejoicing. The God of the universe who sees and knows all, is about to do great things. Initially, the scene may look foreign, scary, or even dull. But look closer, and you will uncover the opportunities God has preordained for you to give glory to His name. So don’t boast like I did when I thought I was moving to my favorite city. God may take you elsewhere. We live for His kingdom, and His plans are best. May the Lord free you to say “Lord willing” with eager anticipation and joy.
Father, Thank You for caring about each one of us, and working in our lives to fulfill the plans You have for us. Help us to remember the many reasons that we have to trust You, and submit our will to Yours. When disappointments come or when we must change the plans we have made, help us to look forward to the good that You have in store for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1. Have you ever made certain plans, but God had a better idea?
2. In what areas of life is it the most difficult for you to submit to God’s will?
3. Has God ever given you more than you ever could have dreamed or planned for?
4. Are there any truths or life experiences that help you to trust God’s will above your own?
*All Scripture verses are taken from the NKJV.
Check out Feed Your Soul with the Word of God, Collection 1 on the Lighthouse Bible Studies website or Amazon.
Used with permission by Lighthouse Bible Studies.
This week's blog post is by my friend Ed Windhausen from my Word Weavers group. His writing is always creative and compelling. He has 25 years of experience in early childhood education, but this year was his first experience teaching online. As the whole world has been upended this year, and we've learned new ways to do things, I appreciate him sharing the lessons God taught him. May you be blessed by his story.
“Something is happening in China,” she said. I had heard about the turmoil with the coronavirus on the news, but China was so far away, why should I worry? How would that have any effect on us? My co-worker was contemplating what would happen if we had to teach our students over a computer. The term distance learning hadn’t yet entered the conversation, and as the only man on an all women preschool teaching team, I was taking the, let’s wait and see, stance. I was not one to over-react or jump to conclusions. I felt like I had to be the one who did not respond emotionally, but inside I was worried.
We were notified on Thursday that there would be a mandatory training on Distance Learning the following Monday. I listened to the radio the next morning as I drove to work. The news was dominated by talk of coronavirus and how quickly it was spreading. My phone alerted me to a text message, which was unusual for 5:45 am. My instructional assistant informed me that school had been closed for the day. I had no idea that the previous day would be the last time I saw my students or co-workers face-to-face that school year.
Decisions happened quickly from that point forward. School systems around the country were taking action to protect their students and staff by closing buildings, halting instruction, and formulating plans on how to progress in a way that was safe and effective. Many of those decisions were then challenged, amended, and re-sent out to the masses. My wait and see stance still seemed prudent, as it saved time on taking action with standards that were sure to change. As a preschool teacher in special education, I wasn’t sure how many of the decisions being made were even relevant to my population. I was worried for my students and their families amidst this ever-changing global crisis.
We started distance learning a few weeks later. Then we stopped because the systems kept crashing. We attended virtual trainings to adapt to a new platform; a platform that we were assured could handle the volume of users. It did not. We then waited as our school system tested and implemented a new approach. Along the way I worried for my students. Would they lose all the ground that had been gained during the school year? Would the parents have the availability to assist us in the education of their children? We were all worried. We had started and stopped distance learning three times. We were hopeful that this new protocol would succeed. It did!
My worries continued as I adjusted to a new way of doing school. Arranging digital sessions with families met with limited success. Whether because of schedule conflicts, technology challenges, or language barriers, I didn’t feel that I was doing any good for my students. My teaching partner assured me that I was doing all I could to provide resources and opportunities for families to engage, but was it enough. It worried me to think that even one of my students might be left behind because of the quarantine.
My teaching partner and I conducted a group lesson each school day for one hour. During that time, our two classes were given the chance to log in to our virtual classroom and participate in reciprocal learning experiences. Out of the combined 22 students available, we regularly had 12-16 students attend. I later learned that our participation numbers were much higher than the average.
As time progressed, I found that my families became more available to my one on one virtual office hour meetings as well. While these sessions were established for me to engage with my students, often I spent the time chatting with parents. These conversations became more casual each meeting. My 25 years of experience in early childhood education was put to use during these chats. But, more importantly, these parents of young children sought out my 22 years of experience as a parent.
It dawned on me one day after a particularly emotional discussion with a parent, that I hadn’t worried in quite some time. I concluded that the difference was not in anything I had done with my students or families, it was my attitude, and my Bible. Since quarantine had begun, I had become so distracted by the changes around me, that I altered my former routine. I had stopped my morning quiet times. I was not regularly in the Word. How had this happened? I know the peace I gain from reading and mediating on Scripture. How could I have deprived myself of this practice that helped ground me during so many tumultuous moments of my life? I realized that there was a correlation to my time in Scripture and my feelings of peace. During the last couple of weeks, I had gotten back into the habit of reading scripture before engaging in my work for the day. It seemed so obvious to me now, but why hadn’t I seen it before?
In Matthew 6:25-27, Jesus instructs us, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life” (NIV)?
In retrospect, I know that I did my best for my students. I am confident that I gave every opportunity to those families that may have been going through challenges during distance learning. But, what if I had devoted all my energy to teaching my students and serving my families from the very beginning, instead of wasting that energy on worry? I learned a lot through distance learning, but the most important lesson had nothing to do with my methods of instruction. I learned that I must trust and rely on God through everything. When I do that, I eliminate the distance between us.
Joanna Eccles has led Bible studies for over ten years and completed the year-long C. S. Lewis Fellows Program. She is passionate about discipleship and helping people know God better. Joanna enjoys coffee, traveling, and reading, and currently lives in Virginia.